Our Whales! trips are our most popular. They range from a one day paddle with the whales of Point Adolphus to a week-long camping adventure. Paddling along the shores of Chichagof Island, northernmost of the major Inside Passage islands, our Whales! trips offer you the opportunity to view and be amazed by Stellar Sea lions, harbor seals and of course, the Humpback whales that congregate here to feed every summer. There is nothing like being at water level with these magnificent beings!
Occasionally Humpback whales fully breach out of the water, in commanding displays of acrobatic power. Observing these most dramatic marine mammals adds an exclamation point to any Southeast Alaska adventure — especially when viewed from a kayak! Chichagof Island, northernmost and second largest of Southeast Alaska's Inside Passage, is separated from the mainland by six-to-ten-mile-wide Icy Strait. The glaciers which gouged this waterway to depths of 1,000 feet carved deep valleys in this mountainous island, letting the sea into long inlets which nearly separate it into multiple islands and make the coastline 742 miles long.
Cloaking this mountainous land mass is primordial rain forest of spruce, hemlock and cedar. Giant trees along the shore support bald eagles' nests, some times up to a ton in size. Over 80 kinds of moss hang from tree branches and thickly carpet the forest floor. Brown bears gorge themselves on huckleberries, salmon berries and other fruits. Black tail deer find shelter and forage here. Our trips start with a short sea plane flight or boat ride from Gustavus. Seven-day trips typically start at a group of islands at the Western end of Icy Strait. There we paddle among the islands and enjoy wild beaches, bird rookeries, and a hint of ocean swell at the very northern end of the Inside Passage.
We move camp after a day or two to the location where we start our Five-day trips: the mouth of a river on the northern shore of Chichagof Island. Here an expanse of meadows, wetlands and tide flats is surrounded by abrupt mountains and separated from the strait by a string of shifting, sandy barrier islands. During our two days in this secluded bay we may paddle up the river, fish for the plentiful trout, explore the dim green forest and view the large flocks of geese and ducks here. We'll camp on a sandy beach, and may see some of the resident coyotes, otters, deer, or even brown bear.
On these longer trips we next paddle along a shoreline of alternating sandy beaches and rock cliffs. Everywhere trees grow right down to the high tide line. About 8 miles of leisurely paddling bring us to our camp in the vicinity of "Whale Point," meeting place of currents flowing around Chichagof Island into the Inside Passage. Up-wellings bring nutrients to the surface, where plankton feed and multiply during summer's 18-hour days. These tiny plants and animals are fodder, directly or otherwise, for an array of marine life from the humble barnacle to the gigantic humpback whale, which gorges here before its long winter fast.
In between is a fantastic variety and abundance of marine life. Otters, seals, porpoise, sea lions, and whales swim past our camp in noisy groups. We learn to recognize them by their sounds, behavior, and appearance. The sea lions are playful and noisy, the seals timid, the whales graceful yet awe-inspiring. For their part, these marine mammals mainly ignore us as we paddle past, or accept us, and go about their usual playing and feeding. We respect them and do not crowd them; our greatest pleasure is to share these creatures' space without disrupting their lives. Tide pool explorations, rain forest treks, gourmet dinners among the tumbled boulders at our camp, and the sense of awe from a humpback whale slapping the water with its flippers as it swims past our tents fill the next two days and nights at "Whale Point."
We never tire of paddling among the gigantic humpback whales who spend their summers here. They rise from the depths with a grace unexpected in a creature of such mass. Usually they exhale explosively as they break the surface, and then go right back under with hardly a ripple. But it is not uncommon to have our attention drawn by the crack! of 50 tons of flesh and bone slamming into the water. This is breaching, when the humpbacks jump clear of the water and crash back into it with a mighty splash, and it is an impressive spectacle, even when it is not seen from a small skin boat among the leviathans! The impression is a lasting one, but only one of many from this great adventure!
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